Defendants in criminal cases often face a daunting task, as the prosecutor inevitably has more resources at their disposal than the average defendant. Faced with this difficult situation, many defendants opt to plead guilty in exchange for some sort of leniency from the prosecutor. This arrangement is known as a plea bargain agreement and is a very common outcome of criminal cases. More than 90 percent of convictions in criminal cases are the result of plea bargains. The following article takes a look at this important legal issue.
Plea bargains consist of one or more of the following components: charges, sentences, and facts. These elements are known as areas of negotiation. For instance, a prosecutor might offer to reduce the charges or offer a lighter sentence to obtain a guilty plea. Less frequently, the prosecutor might agree to exclude certain facts from being presented to the court in exchange for the defendant's guilty plea.
Plea bargains agreements are a staple of criminal cases because, in most circumstances, they offer benefits to all the parties involved. For the prosecutor, a plea bargain is a way to ensure that he gets a guilty verdict. Even when the prosecutor's office has built a strong case against a particular defendant, there is always the possibility that a jury will come back with a verdict of not guilty. A plea bargain makes certain that this does not happen.
Defendants often accept plea bargains when they feel that the evidence against them is strong and that they have little chance of winning their case. It simply makes sense for defendants in this situation to accept lesser charges or a reduced sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
Judges also have an incentive to accept plea bargains. Court dockets are overcrowded in many jurisdictions and plea bargains are a way of avoiding lengthy trials.
Plea bargains are negotiated between the prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney but these two parties do not have the final say in whether an agreement is accepted by the court. The presiding judge has the option of accepting or rejecting any agreement that comes before them. It's normal for judges to have close working relationships with the local prosecutor's office and accept the vast majority of plea bargains that are presented to their court. If a judge feels that any plea agreement between the two sides is not in the interest of justice, however, they have every right to reject the plea bargain and require that the case moves on to a criminal trial.
To learn more, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area.